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Bradley Beal stands out among free-agent field en route to max salary

Bradley Beal stands out among free-agent field en route to max salary

Bradley Beal isn't going to waver, nor should he, and he hasn't for the last year. He’s a max player. Though the Wizards have been given pause with his extensive injury history, they're expecting to pay him as such and that's unlikely to change when free agency opens July 1.

In talking to multiple persons with knowledge of the situation as recent as Wednesday afternoon, the Wizards remain determined to keep their core intact which means Beal stays put with John Wall, Markieff Morris, Marcin Gortat, Kelly Oubre and Otto Porter.

They didn’t reach terms with Beal on an extension (four years maximum) before the 2015-16 season began and was hoping he'd finally make it through a full season in his fourth year but that didn't happen. Now that he’d get a new contract, not an extension of his rookie scale deal, Beal is eligible for more years (five).

And despite the repeated stress reactions – not fractures but dark spots on the bone that are precursors to a fracture – in his lower right leg, Beal hasn’t required surgery which is a major plus. The team also believes it has gotten a handle on how to manage him better to prevent a recurrence

The Wizards will enter free agency with a cap hold of $14.5 million on Beal’s salary slot unless they were to renounce his rights and make him unrestricted. There is zero chance of that happening.

Instead, with the salary cap rising from $70 million for 2015-16 to approximately $92 million because of the league’s new TV contracts, the Wizards will have more room to re-sign Beal. The luxury tax level will be around $111 million and after the Wizards rework their roster this summer they can come to terms with Beal and exceed the cap because they own his Bird rights.

The cap hold represents significantly less than what Beal is expected to command in the open market, even after a disappointing season despite career-highs of 17.4 points and 45% shooting. When the math is complete, he'll be north of $20 million per.

With so much money flooding the market, the best of the free-agent class at shooting guard is extremely thin:

  • DeMar DeRozan (Raptors) has an early-termination option that he’s expected to exercise to renegotiate for more money which is the prudent thing to do and there's a good chance he stays put. Good scorer (23.5 points) because he gets to the line a lot more than Beal, but he's a high-volume shooter, shoots 28.3% from three for his career and in the postseason he’s hit or miss. For context, John Wall is about 4% better from long range.

  • Dwyane Wade (Heat) is expected to remain with the Miami Heat for a 14th season. Not really available. Plus he's 34.

  • Kent Bazemore (Hawks) is coming off his first year as a starter and produces less (11.6 points) than Beal and isn’t as good of a three-point shooter (35.7%).

  • Evan Turner (Celtics) hasn’t lived up to his No. 2 draft status but showed signs under Brad Stevens, who got more quality production out of the guard/forward than anyone but he was still a reserve and isn't a long-distance shooter (24% from three) to spread the floor. A good backup on a good team.

  • Jamal Crawford (Clippers) is the Sixth Man of the Year because he can score (14.2 points) but he’s not a better shooter than Beal (34% from three), doesn’t have nearly the defensive capability and is 36.

  • Courtney Lee (Hornets) is a solid two-way player but has never averaged more than 12.5 points. He shoots in the high 30s from three but he’s a great pickup to backup Beal.  

  • Gerald Henderson (Blazers) can score though he was a backup last season (8.7 points) and shoots 32% from three for his career. Like Lee, a great backup for Beal. Wouldn’t start over him.

  • Eric Gordon (Pelicans) was a 20-point scorer early in his career and a very good three-point shooter for his career (38.3%) but multiple injuries and surgeries have ruined his momentum as he has missed at least 20 games in six of his last seven NBA seasons.

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2019 NBA Draft prospect profile: Jaxson Hayes

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2019 NBA Draft prospect profile: Jaxson Hayes

The Washington Wizards will have the ninth overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. Here is the latest in our series on draft prospects who could fall around where the Wizards will select...

2019 NBA Draft Wizards Prospect Preview: Jaxson Hayes

School: Texas
Position: Center
Age: 19
Height: 7-0
Weight: 219
Wingspan: 7-4
Max vertical: 34.5 in.

2018/19 stats: 10.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 0.3 apg, 0.6 spg, 2.2 bpg, 72.8 FG% (3.8/5.3), 00.0 3PT% (0.0/0.0), 74.0 FT%

Player comparison: Jarrett Allen, John Henson

Projections: NBC Sports Washington 10th, NBADraft.net 9th, Bleacher Report 10th, Sports Illustrated 9th, Ringer 10th

5 things to know:

*Hayes is considered the best center prospect in this year's class. He is athletic, plays with energy and measured in at the combine at about 7-feet in shoes with a 7-foot-4 wingspan. He can run the floor and play above the rim.

*The skill that stands out most for Hayes is rim protection. He averaged 2.2 blocks in only 23.3 minutes per game. That extrapulates to 5.7 blocks over 100 possessions. He has long arms and appears to have good instincts tracking the ball in the lane. He is following in the footsteps of fellow Texas shot-blockers before him like Myles Turner and Jarrett Allen. The latter may be the best player comparison for Hayes in today's NBA.

*Hayes is not considered a very good rebounder. He averaged 5.0 per game and only once reached double figures. It could be that he just needs to add some weight, an issue that is correctable but would hurt him even more at the NBA level initially. The worst-case concern is that he is soft and won't do the necessary dirty work.

*At this point, Hayes offers nothing in the way of an outside shot. He didn't attempt a single three-pointer in college and didn't do much on offense outside of dunks and putbacks. In order to justify being taken with a high draft pick, he will either need to develop a post game, an outside shot or be extremely good on defense. His lack of an all-round game will certainly give some teams pause in evaluating him.

*Hayes comes from a family of impressive athletes. His father played 12 seasons in the NFL and recently served as the tight ends coach for the Cincinnati Bengals. His mother played basketball at Drake University and later coached in college, including a stint as an assistant at Oklahoma. Hayes followed his father's footsteps by playing wide receiver in high school before a growth spurt made it clear basketball was the path to go.

Fit with Wizards: Hayes is one of the best fits for the Wizards among the players who could be available with the ninth pick. He does what they arguably lack the most, which is play defense and more specifically protect the rim.

The Wizards allowed the most field goals within five feet of any team this past season and the third-highest field goal percentage in that range. They desperately need someone who can block and alter shots.

Hayes would likely be the Wizards' best shot-blocker Day 1. But whether he can help them in other ways is a question at this point.

Hayes would represent a bit of a project for the Wizards and may not have All-Star potential because of his offensive limitations. Still, he remains one of their best options in the first round. Long-term, he could transform their defense and form a strong pick-and-roll partner for John Wall.

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2019 NBA Draft prospect profile: Nassir Little

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2019 NBA Draft prospect profile: Nassir Little

The Washington Wizards will have the ninth overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. Here is the latest in our series on draft prospects who could fall around where the Wizards will select...

2019 NBA Draft Wizards Prospect Preview: Nassir Little

School: North Carolina
Position: Forward
Age: 19
Height: 6-6
Weight: 220
Wingspan: 7-1
Max vertical: 38.5 in.

2018/19 stats: 9.8 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 0.7 apg, 0.5 spg, 0.5 bpg, 47.8 FG% (3.6/7.6), 26.9 3PT% (0.4/1.4), 77.0 FT%

Player comparison: Jae Crowder, Justise Winslow

Projections: NBC Sports Washington 11th, NBADraft.net 11th, Bleacher Report 16th, Sports Illustrated 11th, Ringer 14th

5 things to know:

*Little came to UNC as their top-ranked recruit and the sixth-ranked player in his class, but didn't live up to those expectations in his one year in Chapel Hill. There is a debate about whether he will be better suited for the NBA, given his athleticism and playing style. The team who drafts him could come away with a steal if the latter proves true.

*He is more known for his defense at this point. Little is an aggressive and physical perimeter defender who could develop into a Marcus Smart-like pest. Though he didn't force a ton of turnovers in college, Little clearly gave opposing teams problems with his energy and length. 

*There are questions about whether Little will ever be more than a dunker on the offensive end. He is excellent in transition and cutting to the rim, but he didn't do much creating off the dribble in college and needs to work on his outside shooting. He shot just 26.9 percent from three at UNC.

*Little had a strong combine with a 7-foot-1 wingspan and a 38.5-inch vertical leap. Those numbers helped his reputation as one of the most athletic wings in this year's class.

*Both of Little's parents were in the U.S. military. He had a 4.2 GPA in high school and was named Academic All-ACC.

Fit with Wizards: Little fits with the Wizards given he is a small forward and they currently have an opening there. He would also give them something they need in terms of style as a physical wing defender. Little is the type of player who could help them improve their horrid three-point defense.

But Little's raw skillset suggests he may take some time to develop offensively and it brings into question how high his ceiling will ultimately prove to be. The Wizards may be able to find someone with the ninth pick who can both contribute sooner than Little and offer a clearer road to potential stardom.

That said, if Little's game is indeed more designed for the NBA than in college, he could impress in pre-draft workouts and end up rising up the board.

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